This has been a banner week for aficionados of black gay history: Looking for Langston was finally released on DVD. The gorgeous film by British director Issac Julien was released in 1989 and has achieved a cult following on both sides of the pond. The running time is less than fifty minutes—technically this qualifies as a "short"—but the dialogue, art direction and subject matter have rendered this a modern classic.
Looking for Langston celebrates renown poet Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, and, projects this aesthetic to the black, gay experience of the 1980s. The San Francisco Chronicle's review is a love letter: "The film uses Hughes' words as well as those of James Baldwin and Essex Hemphill, among others. As commentary over constantly unfolding images of a black gay club in the '20s, which evolves into a gay disco in the '80s."
"The use of archival newsreels and historical reports of how “Negro art” in the 1920s fell out of vogue with white America are fascinating," another reviewer notes in the Bay Times. "As is the question about queer Harlem Renaissance poets trying to impress middle class Black culture, and/or the white intellectuals/literati, which are as timely today as they were when they were first posed."
It's been almost twenty years but Looking for Langstonholds up remarkably well over time.